Good Friday, Caledonia County

The yard crew screamed for the other truck.
Joe brought it and picked the load off Jack with the crane.
A wonder, how quickly he did.
But he could have waited years, for all it did:
powder and marrow already, the bone;
and the flesh—mat, thread, muck.

Now Jack’s wife must work a job.
His mother’s helping at home, who’s come to think
that somehow she was there
to watch the long-logs shift, and she was there
to see them tumble over bunk-stakes.
She claims the binders didn’t grab.

Then Joe got down by Jack on his knees.
Joe Maloney . . . Joe One-and-Only.
The others turned from the wounds.
Common stuff enough for loggers, wounds,
like sawdust, pine knots, skinny money.
But they couldn’t make themselves look at this.

Jack calls her monkey and mountain goat
his daughter, his baby—or angel. She loves to climb.
“Like you did,” moans his mother.
It’s been a year to the day. Jack loves his mother,
but she’s worn him down these months with gloom.
And wasn’t it he who’d caught that load?

He’d stood there blessing the song of engines.
He’d be home soon; the trucks were stacked and going.
Coals still throbbed in the yard.
The crew had kept a fire, for the landing yard
was chilly; heartbreak spring winds blowing.
The glow of the embers caught Jack’s attention.

The soft ditch sucked at the big rig’s tire.
Jack’s mother slumps, seeing it all, she imagines.
His daughter giggles, climbs.
Joe was the one to come down, who used to climb,
back when he logged the west-slope Tetons.
“It’s a different pretty out there,” he declared,

“but pretty.” Now Joe drove a truck.
Jack’s daughter mounts the dresser, couch and counter,
anything that stands.
For now, her father only sits or stands.
Bless Joe for kneeling down, no matter,
thinks Jack, who’ll find some other work.

His mother says the hemlock fell
as though it aimed at her son’s right thighbone.
The God who’s plagued her mind
and life had simply taken it in mind,
and there you were, hell and damnation!
Jack lets her chatter: what the hell?

His daughter’s aiming ever higher.
He’d seen Joe feel his shirt sometimes for nitro.
Joe by God was all right.
So he’d tell you: “By God I’m all right.”
The coals had cooled to indigo.
The dusk had been going dark, and darker. . . .

Beautiful, though. Beautiful now.
The light-poles’ crosses. The knolls. The sky.
The trees beyond Jack’s window.
The hard young stars, aglow. And through the window,
He’ll watch his weary wife arrive,
who glows as well. She sees him through,

his daughter too, who’s bound to climb,
who dreams of rising to rafter and collar beam.
A ghost pain makes Jack jump.
His crutch falls away with a clack. His daughter jumps
to help him. Angel. Joe came down.
Jack’s mother sighs. His family’s home.

:: Sydney Lea, Prayer for the Little City (1990)

No comments:

Post a Comment